Summary: Discover three truths that enable you to face and win over death
We’re coming to the end of our 12-part message series on what we as a church believe. When we get done, my hope is not that you now can explain God, mankind or the church to your friends. My hope is that your life, your relationship with God and your relationship with one another are healthier and strengthened.
The title for this morning has nothing to do with the fact that we are coming to the end of our message series. We are looking at eschatology, the study of end things or end times. This morning, we’ll look at personal end, or our death. Next week, we’ll look at the end of time and the universe as we know it.
When former Texas Governor, John Connally, was interviewed after being wounded by the assassin who took the life of President John F. Kennedy, Connally explained, "[That incident] inevitably brought into sharper focus what’s really important in life... [My wife and I] try not to participate in things that are shallow or in the long run meaningless."
Near death experiences have a way of focusing our lives to live with meaning and purpose. These experiences remind us that we won’t live forever. Yet, most people don’t want to think about or talk about death. Asians see talking about death as bad luck, as if by not talking about death, we can avoid death. Americans, on the other hand, talk about death as if death only happens to someone else, not to them.
This morning, I want to talk about death, so that we can learn to face our own death. What we believe about our death determines how we live our lives. We cannot live well unless we can die well. And one of my responsibilities as a pastor is to help people live well by preparing them to die well.
In 1980, as Jean-Paul Sartre, the famous French atheist philosopher, was sick and approaching death, he wrote, "Despair returns to tempt me. . . . The world seems ugly, bad, and without hope. There, that’s the cry of despair of an old man who will die in despair. But that’s exactly what I resist. I know I shall die in hope. But that hope needs a foundation."
He faced death, but he had no hope or way to win over death. When we get done this morning, will have learned to face death, and we will have learned to win over death. Our example and hope comes from Jesus Christ.
Our text for this morning is John 13:33-14:6. This is Jesus talking to his disciples about his own death and his preparation for their death, which would soon follow.
This passage in John will be the outline for our study, but I’ll be going to different parts of the Bible to answer some questions that we will have along the way. From Jesus’ conversation with his disciples we find two truths that encourage us face death and one truth that helps us win over death. Let’s look together.
The first truth is that death is not avoidable. John 13:33-37
Jesus was talking about his own death and his return to Heaven. Peter understood only the part that Jesus was going to die. He didn’t understand that Jesus was returning to Heaven. So, when Peter said he could follow Jesus, he was thinking of following Jesus in death only.
But when Jesus said, "... but you will follow later," Jesus was telling Peter that, "Yes, you will die, but to follow me into Heaven, you’ll have to wait." Meanwhile, follow my command to love one another.
When I was a new pastor in this church, I used to say, "You better be nice to me. I’m taking notes for your funeral." I did that for two reasons. First, I wanted you to be nice to me. Second, I wanted to remind you that death is not avoidable, not even as a Christian.
The funeral director who signed his letters, "Eventually yours," was saying the same thing. Death is not avoidable. Even if you don’t talk about it, you will die. It’s one out of one. Deal with it.
Don’t pretend that death only happens to someone else. Don’t try to repress the thought of death. Don’t deceive yourself into thinking that exercise and healthy diet will stop death from happening to you.
Hebrews 9:27-28 tells us, "Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him." Unless Jesus Christ returns before you die, death is not avoidable.
To live knowing that death is not avoidable means that we live with the understanding that our days are numbered. That means we put down the Game Boy and turn off the television in order to pursue activities that are meaningful and lasting in positive impact.